9, 2014
Crisis+philosophy: Alexander, Tech Giants, House, Snowden, Marx, GCHQ, Philosophy
   "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
   -- Benjamin Franklin [1]
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
   -- I.F. Stone.
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton

Prev- crisis -Next

1. Keith Alexander Unplugged: On Bush/Obama, 1.7 Mllion
     Stolen Documents, et al.

2. Tech Giants Blast FCC Chairman's Attack on "Free and
     Open Internet"

3. House Committee Votes Unanimously to Rein In the NSA
4. Thanks to Snowden, House Moves Forward on
     Anti-Spying Legislation

5. “Marx? I never really managed to read it” – an interview
     with Thomas Piketty

6. MPs: Snowden files are 'embarrassing indictment' of
     British spying oversight
7. A bit more on philosophy
About ME/CFS


This is the Nederlog of May 9. It is a crisis issue, but not quite: the last item continues the discussion of philosophical books I started yesterday.

1.Keith Alexander Unplugged: On Bush/Obama, 1.7 Mllion Stolen Documents, et al.

The first item is an article by Glenn Greenwald that I found on Common Dreams but originates on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
The just-retired long-time NSA chief, Gen. Keith Alexander, recently traveled to Australia to give a remarkably long and wide-ranging interview with an extremely sycophantic “interviewer” with The Australian Financial Review. The resulting 17,000-word transcript and accompanying article form a model of uncritical stenography journalism, but Alexander clearly chose to do this because he is angry, resentful, and feeling unfairly treated, and the result is a pile of quotes that are worth examining, only a few of which are noted below:
Yes, indeed: He is "angry, resentful, and feeling unfairly treated", and may also sorely miss his inspiring Star Trek office. Anyway, here is one of his observations (and the following is a quotation):

AFR: What were the key differences for you as director of NSA serving under presidents Bush and Obama? Did you have a preferred commander in chief?

Gen. Alexander: Obviously they come from different parties, they view things differently, but when it comes to the security of the nation and making those decisions about how to protect our nation, what we need to do to defend it, they are, ironically, very close to the same point. You would get almost the same decision from both of them on key questions about how to defend our nation from terrorists and other threats.

Greenwald has some things to say about it, but he agrees with it, and so do I. I will quote one more bit, mainly because it is a really valid point:

Gen. Alexander: (...) . . . . At the end of the day, I believe peoples’ lives will be lost because of the Snowden leaks because we will not be able to protect them with capabilities that were once effective but are now being rendered ineffective because of these revelations.

There are few things in life more ironic than being accused by U.S. Generals, including those who participated in the war in Iraq, of being responsible for the loss of lives. For that sort of irony, nothing will beat that episode where the US Pentagon chief and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff announced that WikiLeaks – not themselves, but WikiLeaks – has “blood on its hands” by virtue of publishing documents about the U.S. war in Afghanistan. In the world of the U.S. National Security State and its loyal media, those who go around the world killing innocent people over and over are noble and heroic, while those who report on what they do are the ones with “blood on their hands”.

Yes indeed: in the mind of Keith Alexander, generals are heroes, and journalist who try to document their killings are terrorists.

Anyway: There is considerably more under the last dotted link, including the announcement that Greenwald's next book will be out on May 13.

2. Tech Giants Blast FCC Chairman's Attack on "Free and Open Internet"

The next item is an article by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

In a strongly-worded letter to the Federal Communications Commission delivered on Wednesday, over 100 internet companies and industry innovators—including Google, Twitter, Facebook, Netflix and Amazon—called on the FCC commissioners to reject recently proposed rules that threaten net neutrality as it urged them to protect the concept of "a free and open internet."

There is a lot more under the last dotted link, and this seems good (as FCC chhairman Wheeler seems extremely bad, and also uses Obama's ways of speaking: he is all for "freedom" and "neutrality" but you cannot believe him).

3. House Committee Votes Unanimously to Rein In the NSA

The next item is an article by Kevin Drum on Mother Jones:

This starts as follows:

It's pretty hard to find non-depressing news out of Washington DC these days, but this genuinely qualifies:

The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday voted 32-0 to approve an amended version of the USA Freedom Act, a bill that would require the National Security Agency to get case-by-case approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court before collecting the telephone or business records of a U.S. resident.

....The USA Freedom Act, introduced last October, would prohibit bulk collection under the business-records provision of the Patriot Act, the law cited by NSA and Department of Justice officials as giving them authority for the telephone records collection program exposed by leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The bill would also prohibit bulk collection targeting U.S. residents in parts of another statute, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which the NSA has used largely to target overseas communications. The bill would take the phone records database out of NSA control and leave the records with carriers.

There is more under the link. I do not think I am as elated as Kevin Drum, but it is some good news, and what he says at the end is also true:
This represents the first time in decades that the national security establishment has been restrained in any significant way. And no matter what else you think of Edward Snowden, this never would have happened without him.

4. Thanks to Snowden, House Moves Forward on Anti-Spying Legislation

The next item is an article by Andrea Germanos on Common Dreams, who reports on the same fact as the previous item:

This starts as follows:
Legislation to curb government surveillance moved forward in the House on Wednesday, a move cautiously welcomed by privacy advocates who say it's still lacking needed reforms.

A revised version of the USA Freedom Act, put forth by by Patriot act author Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), received bipartisan approval from the House Judiciary Committee in yesterday's vote, passing unanimously.

But this is considerably more critical than was Kevin Drum, and I think rightly so. There are several more criticisms for which you have to consult the last dotted link. I merely copy what is said about Thomas Drake's reservations:

Former NSA employee and whistleblower Thomas Drake also criticized the legislation, denouncing it in an exclusive interview with UPI as "totally compromised." The USA Freedom Act, which absorbs White House proposals, just looks better in the face of the competing legislation, he said.

As Reuters reported, the USA Freedom Act "would end the NSA's gathering information about telephone calls and storing them for at least five years. It would instead leave the records with telephone companies."

So, "it ends up basically outsourcing mass surveillance strategy," Drake said. "We don’t hold [metadata], we don’t create it or manipulate it, we have access to it. So where’s the reform? That’s faux reform," he said.

I agree with Drake.

5. “Marx? I never really managed to read it” – an interview with Thomas Piketty

The next item is an article by Isaac Chotiner on The New Republic:

It is indeed an interview with Thomas Piketty. I am mostly interested in the bit quoted in the title: In fact, Piketty did read "The Communist Manifest" but not "Capital".

I have also read a piece that insisted he did read Marx, but I believe he stated the truth, and indeed "Capital" is not easy (and a much better way to get some mathematical grasp of Marx's theories is by reading Steedman's "Marx after Sraffa").

6.  MPs: Snowden files are 'embarrassing indictment' of British spying oversight

The next item is an article by Alan Travis on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

Edward Snowden's disclosures of the scale of mass surveillance are "an embarrassing indictment" of the weak nature of the oversight and legal accountability of Britain's security and intelligence agencies, MPs have concluded.

A highly critical report by the Commons home affairs select committee MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, arguing that the current system is so ineffective it is undermining the credibility of the intelligence agencies and parliament itself. published on Friday calls for a radical reform of the current system of oversight of

The MPs say the current system was designed in a pre-internet age when a person's word was accepted without question. "It is designed to scrutinise the work of George Smiley, not the 21st-century reality of the security and intelligence services," said committee chairman, Keith Vaz. "The agencies are at the cutting edge of sophistication and are owed an equally refined system of democratic scrutiny. It is an embarrassing indictment of our system that some in the media felt compelled to publish leaked information to ensure that matters were heard in parliament."

I say - but Vaz is right. There is a lot more under the last dotted link, but the main thing to realize is that this is a report by a committee, which only proposes recommendations.

7. A bit more on philosophy

I yesterday published a brief piece on philosophy with a list of thinkers and writers, and wanted to say some more, namely about the list, and about my reasons for saying truly intelligent men can do little better than read those on the list.

First about the list.

It was all drawn up spontaneously and fast, and I certainly have made more such lists in different parts of my life. However, these will probably not differ very much from the list I presented yesterday.

But one thing does come with spontaneous and fast lists: it is easy to miss some names, and two I missed are C.D. Broad and W.E. Johnson, both Englishmen, both mostly active in the first half of the 20th Century. They really belong on the list, for I really liked their works.

One reason Broad is missing is that I only found his "The mind and its place in nature" in 1987, and "Five Types of Ethical Theory" in 1998 - and I also should say I normally bought the books of the authors on the list, and dated them when I bought them, and I also bought nearly all of them second hand, mainly because I am and always was poor, while also a good second hand bookshop tends to be a lot better than any bookshop that only sells recent books. (And good second hand book shops are one of the main reasons I like cities.)

Second, about why
truly intelligent men can do little better than read books by the authors on the list.

Socrates said - according to Plato, whom I read but disagree too much with to have him on the list - that "the unexamined life is not worth living", and something like that does cover a part of my reasons, but by no means all.

The main reasons are that (1) reading good books is one of the greatest pleasures there is and that (2) nearly all authors I mention were - also - at least good and quite often excellent writers, while (3) all have interesting ideas of a philosophical kind: they all try to answer some of the questions any truly intelligent person asks anyway (and finds hard to answer).

Third, about true intelligence.

This really is a necessary condition for reading a good part of the list with understanding and appreciation. But I do not know how to define it, except that it is rare in my experience, in which I never met anyone who had read a good part of the authors on the list, not in 64 years. (And I have spend a lot of time in the university.)

So yes, the list is for rare persons only, I fear. But for these it must be considerably better than any academic study, because of the qualities of both the thoughts and the texts - for no: you will not get most of this in any academic study, including that of philosophy (which I recommend you do not study, or only as a secondary study: mathematics or physics are much better, as academic disciplines).
[1] Here it is necessary to insist, with Aristotle, that the governors do not rule, or at least, should not rule: The laws rule, and the government, if good, is part of its executive power. Here I quote Aristotle from my More on stupidity, the rule of law, and Glenn Greenwald:
It is more proper that law should govern than any one of the citizens: upon the same principle, if it is advantageous to place the supreme power in some particular persons, they should be appointed to be only guardians, and the servants of the laws.
(And I note the whole file I quote from is quite pertinent.)

About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which is a disease I have since 1.1.1979:
1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

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